I am in panic mode because I finally got a surgery date. There was a cancellation and so it will be in less than 2 weeks. (Scheduler told me my alternative would probably be March. Ugh!) February would have been fine (preferred). The big deadlines are 1/31, 3/15, and 4/15. BUT, we aren't in the throes of tax stuff yet, too much in January, so I think it will be easier for the rest of the office to pick up my slack. Maybe January is for the best.
Timing is terrible because I have a big audit next week. I was actually hoping to get out of it with surgery. Instead, now it will mean I won't have time to do much else before my surgery. Very frustrating - hope it goes fast and smooth.
To mitigate the panic (& financial side effects of missing 2 weeks of work) I will probably just work every day until the surgery. I was probably going to work Sunday, anyway. So, will enjoy today and tomorrow and then will work every day for about 10 days.
In other news, I got my nook. Love it!!! The down time of surgery recovery means I will catch up on some TV shows and maybe finish my giant book!
Dh just got some series from Blockbuster - Mad Men? DVR is filled with "Breaking Bads" and we are going through "IT Crowd" on Netflix. I hope it doesn't hurt to laugh - that seems like it will be perfect medicine - will save it for recovery. We have 2 seasons to get through.
I kind of prefer Netflix or Blockbuster as far as just sitting down and watching an entire show. It has its pluses and minuses. Kind of leaves you wanting more, I suppose. But it's hard to get through without a chunk of time off work.
I'll probably delay some fiscal chores until my recovery.
I already paid all the bills for January. Will have to finalize the credit card payment when it closes Monday.
Today I updated all my mutual funds (made sure all the balances in Quicken matched my actual balances - made sure all dividends posted, etc.). I am actually pretty darn close to $99k in retirement accounts, in the end. Lots of dividends I hadn't downloaded yet.
When the stock market closes (well - when the mutual funds post their closing prices), I will update my net worth. We may be up $3k for the year. After two years of losses, I'll take it! It was a fairly good year, but the house lost value, which hurt us the most.
I got paid, so transferred the last $1k to our IRAs for the year.
I entered all our holdings in yahoo, at 12/30. Close enough since no transactions today. This way, it's easy to keep an eye on stock market returns throughout the year. I just login to yahoo and look at the "year-to-date returns." Though I don't bother tracking every purchase throughout the year.
To do in recovery mode:
Print out year-end statements for all accounts. (Most are online - I just like to have something in paper form just in case).
Calculate our stock market returns for 2010.
Compare 2010 income/spending to 2009.
I usually print out some reports, including net worth, to keep in the long run.
I will also need to print out all the year-to-date numbers for our tax deductions. I already filled in our tax return with preliminary numbers so have a good idea where we are at. Expecting refunds so will file as close to Jan. 31 as possible. (I usually wait until Jan. 31 for any stray 1099s, and to make sure the software is updated, etc., etc.). Last year I filed early enough to avoid an IOU from the state. Since I unfortunately expect a bigger refund this year, I really don't want to get into IOU territory. I suppose the banks took them anyway? I didn't have to deal with that so will be new to me.
I know - I won't even bother risking a refund for 2011. Not from the state!
Our tax situation is so simple. My gross pay = my taxable income, and so I just use my 12/31 pay stub to file my taxes. All of our investments are in IRAs, and so there is no tax considerations. I can run Quicken reports for our interest income (& mortgage interest expense). We don't get any 1099s that I don't already have the info for. But I suppose it's a "just in case" thing that I wait.
This is one reason mortgage pay down is one of our primary goals. We could invest, yes, but we have enjoyed the tax simplicity of not having taxable investments. Throwing extra money at the mortgage keeps it simple.
Archive for December, 2010
I am in panic mode because I finally got a surgery date. There was a cancellation and so it will be in less than 2 weeks. (Scheduler told me my alternative would probably be March. Ugh!) February would have been fine (preferred). The big deadlines are 1/31, 3/15, and 4/15. BUT, we aren't in the throes of tax stuff yet, too much in January, so I think it will be easier for the rest of the office to pick up my slack. Maybe January is for the best.
2010 was a crazy year, but not too much to complain about financially.
I've already discussed the goals I met (or didn't meet) and will probably look at the year more in depth after the 31st passes.
But, I suppose this is my official "met my 2010 goals" post.
$11k to cash savings
$4080 to ROTHs.
I was unexpectedly able to make my ROTH goal by 12/31. Will do the last transfer when I get paid tomorrow. May have dh run to the bank to me just to get that taken care of.
Basically, put $1k per month to savings, and expected a $3k overtime bonus. With dh's surgery, I think I only got $2500 in overtime pay, but was able to work it out. Had some interest and credit card bonuses, etc. About $15k saved for the year, total.
For the big picture, I achieved my $15k emergency fund goal. Cash is at about $25k today. I give up on $30k. Seems the best I can do at the moment. Dh may get a job this year and if so, we would get this bugger to $30k finally! Impossible on one income, I suppose.
Anyway, I saved a TON to cash, but we also had a lot of expenses. When I look at it all it makes my head hurt. Vet bills, dental bills, home maintenance, medical bills. etc. We plan so hard for these things, and yet seem to spend it as fast as we save it. I am trying to save up for car replacements. Thankfully I expect our cars to last MANY more years...
By the same token, since we were flush with cash, we admittedly took on some long put off purchases. Which just compounded everything.
On the horizon I know we will need to spend $500-ish on some home maintenance, but I think we just need a "no spend" year. Though I Can't help the "emergencies" or things breaking. *sigh* But cutting the discretionary spending will help. It's hard to imagine anything to want for after 2010.
In other financial doings, my retirement balance sits at $98k. What a milestone, huh? If the stock market can behave a few months - will pass the six figure mark.
I am expecting a $1500 tax refund, and can make it $2k if I put $2k into my regular IRA. I am tempted, because it would officially put us at $10k (MAX) for the 2011 calendar year.
I suppose I won't decide until after my surgery - see what the cash situation is. I think it would be smarter to put to cash, but it is tempting. (Tax refund is due to medical deductions - so that is something. May be the same situation for next year).
The mortgage will also tempt me. I think we will get the balance down to about $202k this year. I am tempted to put the payroll tax holiday towards the mortgage and get closer to $200k this year. It's psychological, but I suppose 2011 is shaping up to be an interesting year in reaching these sorts of milestones. A $200k mortgage balance will mean we have paid the first $100k of our home off.
Financial Goals for 2011:
I put them on my sidebar - but here it is.
$8k to cash savings
$8k to ROTHs
I am putting $625/month to ROTHs and expect to hit $8k total with credit card rewards. Is 10% of my expected income.
$5k to cash yearly seems ample for long term savings (car replacement, home maintenance, etc.). Medical deductible is $3k and I know it will be spent next month so have to replace it again. (I can hope not to spend it in 2012??? But as long as dh has MRIs, will burn through the deductible quickly - so may be more years. My surgery isn't even the half of it!).
Any windfall or extra money would go first to maxing out ROTHs and then to paying down mortgage. I don't have any other financial goals - nothing else important on the horizon. Retirement, mortgage, retirement, mortgage...
With the payroll tax holiday, I don't feel the rush for dh to bring in some extra income. I suppose that and knowing we get to keep our low tax rates a couple of more years. But, I may encourage dh as far as mortgage paydown. He doesn't seem that excited about retirement savings (maybe because he has been "retired" for a decade?) but he seems to feel much more passion about paying off this house. SO, I may encourage him to find some work this year to pay down the mortgage a bit. I think it just depends on the motivating factor, somewhat. So, I will play the mortgage card during the next school year. As much as we don't *need* the income this year maybe, the longer we put off the inevitable the harder it will be. I just don't foresee making our aggressive savings goals in our current one-income situation. We both have higher long-term expectations. To pay off our mortgage in the next decade, for one.
I didn't get the Nook yesterday.
I decided against it because wasn't very pleased with the library system. Dh decided to check it out (very smart). The website kept freezing and the ebook selection seemed VERY minimal.
I even looked at some bigger libraries in other cities that I knew I could get access too. They seemed to use the same system and so it just kept freezing and had no better selection.
I Felt rather "eh" about the whole thing at that point. Decided to keep an eye out for a sale. I can get a nook for $100 out of pocket now. & maybe be worthwhile if I can get one for even less. But I am in the middle of a giant book/series at the moment, so maybe I should just give it a year (or two!)
That said, I decided to peruse the free Barnes & Noble titles today. There are A LOT. Much better selection than the library. (Or at least, easier to browse).
On a whim, I looked, and the book I am reading right now was on sale for $5. It is like 1,000 pages. All the books in the series were $5 today.
For $120 (+ tax) I think I can get the Nook and all 4 books. I have $100 cash from Christmas. (My mom also gave me $60 for groceries/gas, which I really didn't need, so will use that to just buy the series I am reading).
I am excited! Since I already have these books, I didn't really think it was feasible to buy the ebooks. But $5 seems like a steal.
This week is the "busiest" deadline week of the year for me. It's not the longest week I will work. I think it always feels so crazy because it is only a 4-day week. I worked a few hours yesterday to lower my stress level a bit.
Anyway, when I drove home from work yesterday, the skies were sunny! (After weeks and weeks of rain - the sun may have peeked out while I was at work some days - but I haven't seen it much). We had gotten tennis rackets for Christmas and so when I got home we hit the tennis courts. Was a perfect day (not too cold). BM is an absolute natural. He did much better than I expected. Dh and I did better than I thought. (We used to play raquet ball a lot. Not sure I've played much tennis, took a while to get used to the ball not being quite as bouncy as a raquet ball). We were terrible, of course, but warmed up pretty quickly.
I don't know how long it will last, but the kids enjoyed doing their own thing and helping keep score. For a while, BM tired out and kept score while LM "played." Since LM didn't do much, dh and I got some decent practice in. We have 2 courts and they played in the second court while we warmed up, too.
They have family classes through the city - very affordable. At the least, BM and I will take a class in the spring. Maybe all of us.
I had to share because with all this snow talk, we were playing tennis in the sun.
I had just tallied the Xmas spending in our last post. But maybe I spoke too soon!!!
We got a free Kindle from credit card rewards.
We LOVE it, but have decided in the process that the nook is more useful. (Our library does not check out books in a format compatible with the kindle, being one of the main factors).
Anyway, that unexpected $50 gift card from a client, was for Barned and Nobles. I haven't perused the website too much, but I know there probably isn't much I want to buy from B&N. (I am sure I could find something, but nothing on my current want list).
On a whim, I opened up the website and started to look around. I thought, "Gosh, what I really want is a nook!" Dreaming of checking out ebooks from the library...
I called dh and said, "I think I want to buy a Nook!" He said he had just read an article that in households, there is an 80% chance is one person has an ereader, someone else in the household will get one. Basically, he wasn't surprised.
Of course, if we get the nook, we will fight over it, for sure. Or it may lead to the purchase of a second nook, in the near future...
At current, I am thinking of buying the nook from Target (I can get 5% off with my RedCard). I will peruse the internet for other deals. Then I can use my Barnes & Noble G.C. for a nice cover and maybe a couple of books? OR, I can pay full price there and just use my gift card. Depends what comes out the cheapest in the end, I suppose. None of the B&N coupons I can find apply to the nook. Figures!
If you see any good nook sales, let me know. We may just go buy in the store this weekend. B&N, Target or Best Buy. The sweetest deal we can find (there doesn't seem to be much in the way of deals at the moment). I buy so much online - I am excited to pick one up in person. Though, I may hold back and wait for a sale.
ETA: Wanted Nook because dh kept telling me he thought it was better. But now he is researching all the other e-readers, to be sure. Will see. Nook is the front runner, but maybe no hasty decisions this weekend.
I think we usually spend about $500 for Christmas. This year, I didn't pay much attention, but we ended just about dead on at $500.
$60 Teachers, etc. (cash/gift cards)
$0 Scholastic ($230 worth of books for teachers)
$50 Boss gift
$20 Work gift exchange
$75 In-laws gifts (went in with sister/cousins)
$3.50 (for $207 worth of books/games at Scholastic).
$17 Bday/Xmas mom
$35 Bday/Xmas dad
$8 game for sister
$35 treated parents to lunch for bday
$4 Dollar Tree (stocking stuffers)
$50 easel/art set for LM
$15 Marie Callendar pie for birthday
$127 Other gifts for each other (dh, kids, moi)
As usual, we got far more cash than we spent. Worked out pretty well!
We've got games coming out of or ears, here. Board games (LOTS), video games, etc., etc. I think the kids will find plenty to do this next week off of school. (Not that I was worried about it before Christmas!)
Oh - the big gift from my folks (for BM) was the Lego MindStorm. It's basically a robot building/programming set. It is SO COOL! Very expensive, and we all kind of thought it might be a bit over BM's head. In the end, it looks like it is right up his alley and he will learn a lot. Definitely a big score there. I am just pleased it turned out so well and am awed by how educational it is. That thing will keep him busy all year (there is so much complexity you can add to it).
Feeling extra blessed this year. IT's just been a very pleasant holiday.
At work I got some divine isotoner gloves in the gift exchange. From clients? Homemade fudge and a $50 gift card!!!! Never gotten anything like that before. What a nice surprise! The boss actually gave us really nice work bags (very functional). & the usual bonus. Woohoo!
Just got home from Christmas with dh's family. It was more muted than usual. BUT, MIL always seems to bring more gifts Christmas day, so lord knows what she will bring up tomorrow! I got some clothing that I picked out, we all got tennis rackets, and I also got some new carry-on luggage. Some calendars. I think mostly stuff I asked for. We didn't get the roku box, but dh thinks we are getting that for his birthday. Will see. If not, we may use the Amazon gift certificate for that.
Before the gift extravaganza, the kids and I got to meet up with an SA'er. FrugalTexan (Laura) !!! She was very sweet and we had nice meet up at the zoo. It was just kind of a frugal/neutral place to meet up. Was able to squeeze in a couple of hours. IT was our first SA meetup for the both of us.
She was visiting relatives in San Jose, where most of our family lives.
We just got home and found our front door was piled up with cookies and cards. Feeling very loved this holiday season!
We probably get a few things throughout the week, usually, but just never seen it all piled up at the front door like that.
My eggs hatched and I can cash flow that $3k ROTH contribution. That was my goal for the year, and I had intended to fund that with my tax refund. So, made the goal a little earlier than expected. Woohoo!
I was feeling hesitant towards the end of the year thinking I may need the cash for medical bills, etc. But, since I am also getting a decent tax refund, I will just transfer $3k into the ROTHs next week. Christmas cash of $1250 will help fund that. I scrounged $750 since I was able to start paying our health insurance with my credit card this month (& thus skipped the payment from the checkbook this month). The last $1k comes from my paycheck 12/31. I have been saving $1k per month to cash. That's the last big push. Next year will focus more to retirement than cash.
The initial report on the neighborhood fire was "very minimal damage."
BUT, today I heard that the family was staying at a hotel for 3 months (estimated) while the damage is fixed. Wow! We may have $50 - $100 left at the end of the month (got $100 from my mom yesterday, too). I think we will just send it to the family. The neighbors put together a nice haul for their Christmas (their presents were destroyed in the fire), but I can't help but think they may be worried about shelter more than gifts. I think I would be! Will see if there is anything we can do to help.
Tonight we have our own Christmas traditions, and tomorrow we will spend a nice day with our folks, at home. The fridge is filled with take and bake pizzas. We keep it very low key!
To my SA family - Happy Holidays!
**I still feel like I have been on full speed the last 2 days (& has affected my sleep - had so much on my mind).
I SO look forward to tomorrow. "Christmas" with the in-laws, and a meet up with a fellow SA-er! If I can manage to stay healthy. We tried last year. Now I remember why I ended up sick and canceling. But it was a bummer and I want to be healthy tomorrow.
Christmas will be nice, too. Nothing really planned - nothing much to do. Dh is picking up some "take and bake" pizza today. I'll make my 5-minute fudge sometime Saturday. Done!
Sunday I will probably work all day. But, I look forward to putting work aside for a couple of days, in the interim.
**I had almost forgotten LM's big easel. We put it together last night. Didn't take too long. It is SO COOL. I am SO EXCITED to give that to him.
BM's big gift will be from Grandpa. IT's some robot/engineering thing.
We don't always do big gifts. It's hard to compete with Grandma - easier just not to get the kids anything!
But once we got the easel all set up yesterday - I just got so excited. I know LM will be in heaven. HE loves to just sit and draw and draw and color all day.
If I can squeeze a few minutes from my work day I am going to hit the dollar store for some paint and erasers. Dh and BM were supposed to get that, but decided on a video game instead. In the meantime, the dry erase board, chalk board, and paper roll will probably be enough (he has crayons and marker for that). But I think the paint will be the best part!
**On top of the madness, we wasted about 3 hours watching a movie last night. Inception.
My dh is the movie buff and we had been waiting a long time to see this. I was relieved when brainy/movie buff said, "I don't get it." Neither did I.
*sigh* That's what I get for listening to hype.
I identified with these review:
"It's a bold, stunning feature of impossible technical virtuosity. It also has the tendency to be about as emotionally stimulating as a college lecture. " From rotten tomatoes
"I found myself more or less entirely baffled by Inception. I tried, I really tried, to figure it out, but I just couldn’t get the hang of it — not really. For approximately two out of every three minutes the movie was unfolding on screen, my honest experience is that it was vague, obscure, scattershot, puzzling, confounding – and, finally, maddening. There were moments, of course, when I was dazzled. How could you not be? Yet even then, I had the feeling that those moments would have provoked virtually the same reaction of “Oh, wow!” awe if I had seen them completely out of context."
That about sums it up.
I can't help but see the potential in this as far as a TV series. There is a LOT to flesh out. But I couldn't help but feel that everything was just so HASTY as they tried to cram all that into one movie.
**It's official. I got my profit sharing money transferred into my IRA. (Employer terminated plan this year).
The funds are on hold one week until the check clears.
Next Monday I will be allocating the amount a bit, once the funds clear.
I don't have enough time to research the dividend policies. I decided to just leave dh's portfolio as is until January 1, or whenever the dividends post for the year. Might as well make sure to get that (though maybe the dividend date passed and it doesn't matter). Just too much on my plate right now to look up for sure.
So, I will make my allocations on Monday and then do dh's the following Monday. Probably the plan.
**It is official that I have a surgeon. Dh and I met with the surgeon I initially met with (he told me nothing was wrong but sent me for an ultrasound just in case. So have only talked surgery over the phone).
The week has been stressful and crazy, and the whole thing sent me a little over the emotional edge. Nothing new or exciting, but it's all a little too much. All I can say is I was exhausted when it was said and done, and so though we ate out a ton this month already, we went out to dinner. I pigged out, had a great time with dh, and feel so much better.
2 more days of crazy before the weekend. I suppose the surgery will go back to the farthest thing from my mind for a few more weeks. Surgeon thinks I will get a surgery date in January.
Eh, I did find out the surgery will have to be at the old hospital (where I had my kids). I Was dreaming of private recovery rooms and pretty decor. But, oh well! Sounds like I will be in and out pretty fast. (I only had to stay 12 hours after giving birth - and that was too long!!!! So, I am not thrilled. Though it sounds like a 12-hour kind of thing. Something in that range. I suppose that is the best I can ask for a hospital stay).
**Dh and I stopped by the gym. It took about 5 minutes. Phew!!!! We pay $29/month for the 2 of us and it's something like $20/month for one person. The guy was trying to talk dh into staying for $15 per month. We were clearly not interested. It's like the dude hasn't been to the gym in over a year. He figured he may go more with the kids in school, but nope, he hasn't. It's long overdue to drop him from the plan.
So I asked the guy, "Can we just do one person for $15?" He's trying to tell us how one person is MORE expensive, which is just stupid. We weren't biting! He said, "Sure, we can do that."
When we left, I told dh I should have asked for $10/month! Probably could have haggled more, but it's relative. That was easy, and saves us $15/month.
We get to keep our lifetime childcare, too.
We didn't get any paperwork (but that dh cancelled), so I am wary until we get the next bill. Will see what it says. I will remember the guy who told me $15 though.
WE also didn't ask how long the rate was good. Old rate was forever. That said, they seemed so desperate to keep dh that I figure I just threaten to quit next time they raise the rate. I learned they take what they can get.
It was so fast and easy and I didn't realize the paper he handed dh said nothing about the rate, until later. Will see how it all pans out.
So, official, official, official. What a day!
I scrounged $95/month today, between that and my state tax reduction. Yay!
My parents are not into little kids so much. MIL would raise them if she could. (Night and day!)
But, anyway, my parents agreed (surprisingly) to meet dh and pick up the kids today, and deliver them to MIL until Friday when we will take them home. MIL had to take someone to the airport or something.
SO, dh and I went out and my mom calls to say she decided to keep the kids. I said, "Did she decide that or is your mom MIA?" (BTW, his mom being MIA would be kind of weird). HE said, no, his mom kind of asked them to keep the kids tonight.
Well, that is weird, but we decided not to destroy a nice night with MIL drama. Will take my mom's word for it.
She called a couple of times to ask about their bedtime and stuff. She has NEVER offered to take the kids overnight. IT's just not her thing. I think it's cute though. I think the kids are getting old enough and self-sufficient enough. I am glad they get some special time with my parents. Our parents are just so different. Similar in many ways, and completely opposite in others!
So, I am delighted they all seem to be having so much fun.
Dh and I get two whole nights to ourselves. Life is good! (Will miss the kids, but am enjoying the peace and quiet, for sure!!!)
California increased their individual tax rates/exemptions in 2009/2010.
This affected us substantially. Our annual income taxes went from about $600 to $1600. Ouch. However, these were also the years of the "making work pay" credit, so it kind of evened out.
Anyway, I initially saw taxes were going down (state) for 2011 and decided to leave as is for future tax increases.
THEN, I remembered how the state is issuing IOUs and delaying refunds, etc., etc., etc. I decided to *screw that* and change my withholding back. I would prefer to owe at the end of the year.
This will increase my paycheck by $80 per month.
Payroll tax holiday will buy me about $130 per month.
My Federal seems dead on, as is, so I will keep that withholding the same. Means I found another $210 per month, total.
That's $2520 per year. Piano lessons is $1k per year, each child. The rest will go to savings for next year's piano lessons. The payroll tax holiday is only a one year deal. I think if I start LM later in the year, and STATE tax rates stay low another year, I can fund 2 years of lessons.
It is also looking more likely we will max out our ROTHs next year. Maxing the ROTHs (from income/consistently) and affording piano lessons have been in my long range goals for many years. I thought all this medical/surgery stuff, 2 years in a row, would set us back much further.
2011 looks promising!
(I know, I know - how long until the state increases taxes again? Maybe this June with the budget? Likely! But I will enjoy in the interim. I am also presuming I bounce back quickly from surgery! Hoping for the best...).
**Talking to this potential piano teacher, I was reminded that our piano is LOVE Overdue for a tune. The plus side is that it can go a long time without getting tuned. But the downside is I don't think about it much.
Probably $75-ish? Oh well - it's time! (5 years since last tuned? It doesn't sound bad at all...)
**Today I stopped by Walgreens to get my razors for 1/2 off the full price. Glad I didn't forget!
**I wrote a check for the boss' gift at work (we all go in). By some miracle, I have $0 left in the checking account at 12/31 (Just about exactly!) and I should have the $3k to cash flow a ROTH contribution. Lord knows how. (I always run the balance to $0). I am still counting $1250 in eggs not hatched (regular cash gifts that may or may not come through) - but I have the tax refund to cover that in the worst case, I suppose.
I am probably forgetting something - that's how I feel.
**Dh and I have a date at the gym while the kids are gone this week. Though work is crazy, I generally am out at 5:00. So will spend some evening haggling a new gym plan without dh. I decided if we can go from $29 to $9/month (per sales ad) that paying $100-$200 up front may be worthwhile. Will see what our options are. We were also sold the same rate for eternity since we bought our membership before the gym even opened, BUT, they seem to offer the same deal to everyone all the time. I decided to just pull out the contract and compare the fine print from the new one to the old one.
The sales ad I have says $9 enrollment fees OR $9/month. Though in the past, the $9 is usually limited times/days. So, crossing my fingers that is the full membership with the New Years specials.
$29 was for 2 people. I think their regular price is $19 for one person.
**The game SET was on sale on Amazon today (about 50% off), so I bought one for the kids with our gift certificate. Will maybe buy a couple of others for gifts. Will check if my sister has it and if my dad still has his. If not, perfect gifts (& I can get them for free!!!)
**Dh wanted to buy a $30 gift card at amazon since we already bought $20 for my work gift exchange and there is a $5 added to your gift card balance (I think?) if you spend $50 in gift cards in December. I suppose we should just get that for my dad.
**If SET was $8, that is all we have spent from our $100 gift card balance. (Miracle???). That said, dh is waiting for the Christmas and birthday bounty. After his birthday, I am sure he will spend the rest in a flash!
I actually tried to buy some skate supplies ti fix up my skates, but messed it up so the gift certificate did not apply.
I'd like to buy BM some skates from amazon, but wanted to get my skates fixed up first. After tax season may be best, since his feet grow so fast!
Hmmmm, I am remembering why we keep Christmas so low key.
The last few days have been totally crazy (nothing to do with the Holidays!).
Work is crazy. I came in Sunday because I had to renew my CPA license and apply for a PTIN with the IRS. (They now charge me $60+ a year for the pleasure to prepare tax returns).
Firday, my boss asked me to get a new client all set up by Tuesday. Oy vey. So was able to get started on that. I am crunching numbers and figuring taxes/bonuses, etc., for every single business client I have in the meantime.
Today we got the tax law changes in our software. Some numbers I did not expect to change, changed. I have a headache just thinking about it. Went back and checked everything I already did - lots of changes. I am annoyed at Congress still, obviously for taking so long for last minute tax changes that affect 2010. I will praise our tax software company for the super fast update. Didn't expect that would be ready today!
On top of all this, we have a big audit coming up. When my boss hired me, he told me that his audit rate (IRS) was very low. HE did not exaggerate. We have only had a handful of audits over the years. Either clients that came to us to help with the audit (not our client before that) or the magic "3 years of losses." 3 years of losses will get you an audit, 100%.
As such, I have been a tax professional for over a decade, and have never been involved in an IRS audit. (Knock on wood!!!)
Just one more thing I have to work on, for the moment. Should be an easy peasy audit, but they asked for a ton of documents. Oy vey! I have to laugh a little because we are 99% sure a disgruntled former partner initiated the audit, somehow. But they are examining all of the partners' tax returns for the last year she was still a partner. So I have to giggle a little knowing that she will be scrutinized by the IRS too. Classic! KArma karma karma.
I also came into the office Sunday to work on my asset allocation. I had my spreadsheet at work and couldn't find it at home.
I am consolidating dh's ROTH from 3 funds down to 2. I had him in Vanguard STAR, and the Total Stock Market & Total Int'l Fund. Simple, for dh. Investing and mutual funds is greek to him.
SO, I moved it all over to a Retirement Target fund. That said, I really like the STAR fund (balanced) and so kept some of that to keep it a tad more on the conservative side. (Not a lot, but a little bit).
The reason for all this hoo ha is that my boss terminated our retirement plan. It was a type plan where I had no control over (& he contributed 100% to it), so now I suddenly have control of the other half of our retirement. Had to figure out what to do with it - it is a chunk of change!
I was going to invest some in Wellington or Wellesly fund, but when researching it I saw one or the other (same management company) was under examination by the FBI. !!
So, yeah, a good reminder to keep up on the news. I decided to stick with STAR until that shakes out. For now, I just went with dh's old "3 fund allocation." I will probably re-examine later. As our portfolio nears six figures, I have a lot more room to diversify, etc. I am not sure if I just want to keep it simple at this point, or diversify more.
I have quite a few managed funds and a couple of bond fuds, as well as some cash, in my other ROTHs. I usually do asset allocations across all of our accounts, but I have a Target date retirement fund that has performed pretty well (T Rowe). So, I think I just want us to both have our Target date funds (on their own, for the most part) and maybe do a simple allocation for my work retirement money. I suppose I am moving the bulk of our investments towards simplicity, while still dabbling in diversification of managed funds for a smaller portion.
That said, when I figured out my assets allocations yesterday, I entered it all into the Morning Star X-Ray just to make sure there was no surprises. There weren't, so, phew! About 30% cash/bonds, 25% international stocks, and the rest to domestic stocks. Sometimes it is hard to estimate the actual holdings/percentages of certain funds. That is why I check the X-Ray.
Dh and I are *slow* and forgot about the focus group I miraculously qualified for. I saw it on the calendar yesterday and was pretty upset about it since work is so crazy. Couldn't imagine how I could go, when dh told me that BM won't even be in town (Was staying with MIL). I probably could have worked it out, but appreciated the excuse.
Not sure they will ever call me again though! I canceled this morning - about 2 days notice. I know they plan for the cancellations best they can, but felt bad.
The weekend was awesome! We finally made it to the Aerospace museum and the Star Trek exhibit.
The Star Trek exhibit was slightly dissapointing in that all the talk of it being "original sets" was greatly exaggerated on their website. Also, no cameras allowed. Pictures cost an arm and a leg.
So, you'll just have to take my word for it - I was there! I don't play the expensibe picture game - it's my pet peeve!!!
Other than that, the museum was pretty cool. The Star Trek exhibit was pretty neat. The kids' favorite part was the transporter room of course. They had the ship bridge, and parts of the ship set (those were maybe original - not the bridge or the transporter room though).
They also had a simulator with the exhibit. It was like this little pod they lock you in and swing you around in - with visual and sound of course. The kids really wanted to go. The rules were so extensive that no adult could go with LM, so we initially said no. I knew BM would be fine, but thought LM might FREAK. Finally, we overheard that they had a "mild" setting that did not go upside down. For the best, since the harnesses were for adults. I didn't think it was a good idea for LM to go upside down in that thing, under any circumstances. The kids LOVED it (mild setting) and BM weighed enough that dh could go on the wild setting with him. So they did that. Dh said LM would have been tossed all around, so worked out. BM was probably tossed around too, but he could hold his own.
Dh's GRandDad sent us about $100 for Christmas, and since we went to lunch and the museum with dh's dad and aunt, it seemed appropriate to use that money for it. I can write a nice Thank You note how we had the most awesome day with his son and daughter. IT really was a blast! IT was a rare time I could care less about the money. (The ride thing ended up costing us about $30. We spent about $60 on lunch, and they paid for our admission). The day was just so priceless and fun.
On top of all that, I found a piano teacher. I told dh I wasn't really picky. I was a student teacher for many years, and don't have extensive music training. Well, nothing extraordinary on my resume - took lessons for 20 years, voice lessons for a few years, and marching band and all that stuff - I do know music! But no formal degree and never took it overly-serious. I know you don't have to be an expert to teach the basics!
But, I did prefer to find someone local/close. Was really my main criteria.
Lucked out and found a private teacher in our community. I really liked her on paper, and she used to be an elementary teacher at the kids' school. I asked for references and even told dh, "I doubt I will call - it's probably just a friend or something." I am just always suspicious of random references from strangers. The references ended up being people I know (one of them a teacher at the school). See what I mean? I googled this teacher and found she was a school teacher before, and she said on her sales pitch. I just wouldn't have realized it was at our school, otherwise.
LM is wary, and younger, and everything is so up in the air with my surgery, that I think I will just get BM started with lessons. I think it would be good for LM, but financially, I am happy to wait a few months. If this works out, I will add LM by summer.
I know group lessons would maybe be cheaper, but haven't found any yet. Will keep my ears open - I learned in a group setting - I think there were a lot of pluses to that. The student teachers did mini private lessons - was a real affordable set up. I need to find something like that for the long haul!
That said, $20/half hour is probably about as cheap as it gets. Dh said, "That sounds expensive!" I laughed and told him I used to charge more like $30 or $35 last I taught (1999???). I will take $20 from a pro teacher. Sounds like she quit teaching school in recent years (trying to build business) and I suppose in this economy prices would be lower. This is also a much lower cost area than where I taught before.
I think $15-$20/week is what we used to do with the group lessons. So I suppose I am sold on location and price, for now. Depends if the kids mesh with her teaching style.
No wonder why I feel like I am going in 10 different directions!!!!!!!
Tomorrow I am meeting with my surgeon to grill him a little more about my surgery and decide if I want him to do the surgery. I like his personality, but we haven't discussed any of this in person yet, and I would like to know about his experience with this procedure. Just one more thing on my plate!
Oh yeah, and there is all the crazy storms to contend with.
This is a park (soccer field):
Just how the whole neighborhood looks today. We usually worry about catastrophic flooding (failing levies) but this is the first time we've worried about a smaller flood. Ugh!
I probably should pay more attention to the walgreens coupons, ads, etc. It is a store I frequent simply since it is the only store in our immediate neighborhood. I often stop by their to/from work when I need something.
Also, since dh does all the grocery shopping, I generally pick up:
stuff like that... Actually, every time I go in there, I browse all these things, and mostly pick them up when they are on sale.
I am pretty low maintenance, so that is about it. Occasionally make up.
Oh, and snacks. Maybe a soda once in a while. Since all we would have is boring/healthy food, otherwise.
Yesterday was a particularly crappy day and so I decided to pick up a nice cold soda last night. Sounded like a nice end to a long day!
Razors have not been on sale forever. Which is fine I suppose since it is winter. I ended up buying a couple of gifts while I was there, some shampoo, etc., so spent about $35. (I found the nicest gift for my mom for $5 - and got my dad's almond roca - so all set!!)
When I left, I got a $5-off coupon for next week. For the whole store (woohoo). I read all the fine print and decided I would just pick up some razors. A pack of them were $10, and I could get them 1/2 off this way, and be stocked up for a while.
Dh is meeting my parents half way next week so that they can deliver the kids to MIL. They are staying with her for a couple of nights - will pick them up Christmas Eve and bring them home.
Anyway, told him to treat my parents for lunch (the meeting spot is a buffet that is actually good/cheap). The usual meeting place (another restaurant) has shut down. But we found a good replacement. Cheaper, too. Buffets are always awesome deals for the kids (they charge them little and they are bottomless pits!) Will treat my folks since my dad's birthday was this week.
My mom's birthday is also this month, so glad I found her a second gift at Walgreens.
It's birthday birthday birthday around here. It all hits December and July. Kind of funny how it works like that. Dh is January (close enough to December) and I haven't given him much thought. I think he was spoiled rotten this year, and we probably won't get him much. Usually we don't exchange gifts, but I bought him one last year. But even if no money is spent, would like to do something nice. (Of course, I may be having surgery or something, so I guess its hard to make any plans for the moment. Usually we get out of town without the kids, but the thought hadn't really crossed my mind. We aren't itching for a break since we just spent a week in Hawaii!)
A wee bit stressed.
Work is crazy, plain and simple. I hate that this time of year is so busy.
The kicker is that I hurt my knee. I am bummed because exercise is my stress reliever. I was also making some weight loss progress. (I refuse to diet - I rely on the exercise! )
That said, since I have surgery coming up, I feel kind of eh about it. I would have to gear up after the surgery and would lose a lot of this muscle I am sure. So, I feel like, eh, might as well be a lazy blob.
On the flip side, I will go to the gym and try the treadmill/elliptical. It might be okay. Unfortunately, aerobics is out. BUT, I don't go much during Jan - April anyway. So now is a good of time as any.
I am officially taking it easy. If it doesn't improve in a few weeks, will see a doctor of course. (Gah - so sick of doctors!)
Reminds me, we were so stupid to sign up for the gym under dh's name. I work out rain or shine no matter what. Always have. Dh is not so consistent.
In the end, he hasn't gone in over a year. He was bothering me to buy something recently, and I told him to drop his dang gym membership. (All year - or2? - he's been telling me he will get back into it with the kids in school). I think they will make us re-sign up, but will hold my breath we can just change it to my name. If we start over, we lose the unlimited daycare and everything. But saving $10/month, for eternity, is a good idea I think. With the New YEars' specials, I may get $9/month if we pay more up front. That would save $20/month, and probably worth whatever the cost. HEck, maybe it would be better to switch over. I don't rely on their daycare much at the moment, so will work through it. Can still pay by the hour if I do need it.
Chores this weekend:
*Renew my CPA license
*Choose Asset Allocations for new retirement money, and rebalance portfolio
*Tax planning for my dad (He worked pare of the year, not much, had disability and unemployment, and wants to convert some money to a ROTH).
It's nothing but rain rain rain rain here. I read that it was a nina year (as opposed to el nino?). & that though there was TONS of rain and snow (in the mountains) that 90% of our rainfall would come by the end of this month.
Boy, they meant it. I am over the rain!
Weather is wishy washy as usual. Don't think we used the heat much this month, but last few days it's been running non-stop. BRRRRRRRR!!!!!
Anyway, probably going to the Star Trek exhibit. Had been waiting for better weather (for the rest of the museum - a lot outside) but give up!
So, the tax breaks passed, huh????
I am not thrilled as far as the long term financial outlook of our country (& social security, etc.). & let's face it. These tax breaks will have been in place for 12 years. The longer they stay the more painful it is to raise taxes.
But, for me personally, sure, it's good. Might as well enjoy. What else can we do?
I would say quite literally the Bush tax cuts have been key in letting my spouse not work for so many years. IT's been 8 years at this point.
2011 held some uncertainty for us, but now it's kind of like, "well, we got 2 more years."
Social security tax holiday? It would probably literally be enough to max out our ROTH with our current budget.
BUT, there is one thing financially I have wanted for a long time that I could just not justify. Piano lessons for the kids. They aren't getting any younger and my attempts to teach them have failed miserably (we just haven't made the commitment). Maybe if we pay a small fortune we can find that commitment.
After the year is up, either I can pick up where the teacher left off, or dh may be working anyway. If nothing else, we can re-evaluate the expense.
I just think it is super important for the kids to have a music foundation and learn how to read music while they are young. I have tried to teach too many adults in my life. It's pretty much impossible.
I will probably just save it up and look into the lessons in April or May. If I can find group lessons, I may be able to afford both kids. Will see...
ETA: I found $80-$100/month for private lessons. Kind of what I expected. I can afford one kid with the payroll tax holiday, and the other will be pushing it, but may be worth it just to start them both. I forgot to mention, I am also working on dh to drop cable - which could help us afford piano lessons for the long run.
Well, that was random! I somehow got locked out of my dh's credit karma account, many months ago. I couldn't remember enough about it to call in (Don't remember which e-mail I used, etc.?)
So, I check another e-mail I rarely check, and he has an invitation to try out their new credit scores (3 different scores versus the one). On a whim, I tried to log in and got in the first time. Kind of disturbing since they told me the account was locked and he'd have to call, last time. Not so sure about that security, but glad I could get in.
YAY! It's been a great way to monitor our credit reports, for free. Not in detail, but to keep an eye out for anything unusual.
Meanwhile, I didn't get such an offer. Boo!
Cash status for the year:
I have been trying tirelessly to get our cash to $30k, but the more I save, the more expenses we seem to have. Bah!
I do not like counting our eggs before they hatch, but if we get the usual gifts/bonuses for Christmas, I can cash flow the last $3k into our ROTH Efund (was our goal for the year - to add $3k more. Though I was going to wait for my tax refund to do that).
I can cash flow it, so might as well get that taken care of.
Which puts us right at $25k cash for the year, which was my secondary goal. Phew!!! As long as we have no cash emergencies between now and 12/31! (A lot to ask, huh? Though most anything we can card and pay next year, so I don't mind counting those eggs too much).
Put us at:
$5k Cash EFund
$10k ROTH Efund
$3k for Medical deductible 2011
$7000 Mid-term (house/car fund)
$0 short-term savings (breakeven for the year, as should be)
Of course, I do have $1500 from tax refunds, expected.
For reference, I ended last year with almost $11k in the mid-term fund, but ended up using it all for medical expenses and budget shortfalls in 2009. Ugh!
SO, it feels real nice to start 2011 with almost $8k-$9k in that fund. Part of the problem was I over-funded medical (thought our expenses would be higher) so medical is funded already for 2011.
Dh paid just under $8k for his last car, and so I think it's a pretty good car replacement amount. (We've had the car for 9 years, and it is very low maintenance). The home maintenance on the horizon is pretty minor, so I am hoping we can make forward progress on this cash fund, this year.
I was going to hit the ROTHs hard this year, but I get paid 12/31 (instead of 1st like usual) and am cash flowing the ROTH cash contribution, first. From there, I am putting 100% of my savings in cash (2/1 and forward) until this whole surgery thing shakes out. Once I recover, I will resume ROTH contributions and focus on retirement.
Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.
On the emergency fund, it feels good to get it to $15k. That is about 3-4 months of expenses for us. 3.5? Probably 4 months in an emergency (would cut some expenses in that case!)
$30k puts our entire cash savings at about 7 months' expenses, so that is my overall goal. If we had a catastrophe, we could significantly lower our car expectations and stuff like that. Basically, I would consider all of our cash in an emergency.
All ready for Christmas, I suppose. Seems more low key than usual. I really haven't had to do much of anything and don't plan to do much else. Did 100% online shopping, so why it seems easier. Dh would run my errands for me otherwise, probably. So, low key regardless.
Kids' classes just collected money for group gift.
Even for his family, his sister did the work and we are just reimbursing her. We had been doing big gifts in recent years (in return for many vacations, etc.), and there was talk of a big e-book gift or something like that. At first I wasn't thrilled, but the truth is it is a drop in the bucket compared to their generosity this year. So, whatever. But in the end we just did something more modest. Phew!
I have to wrap a gift certificate for a co-worker, and write a check for my boss' gift. That's about it!
You know that annoying Chase commercial with all the "I am making deposits from the bathroom" talk? How exciting it is you can make deposits from anywhere?
It is an annoying commercial, but it rings true. Since I can scan my deposits (& don't have a smart phone), it's not exactly the same. But I have delighted in teasing the kids - telling them we have to go to the bank - and just taking them upstairs to the scanner. I am sure the novelty will wear off eventually.
My mom's checks have been more finicky - she pays half our cell phone bill (every other month - we share the cell plan). Needless to say, glad I only ask for it every other month. My paychecks go through smooth, which is good since those are the most frequent deposits I have.
Knock on wood, but I have never had to walk in a deposit since the scanner option. May take a few tries, but they have all gone through.
I did my taxes today (preliminary) and am only getting back $1500. I had estimated $2k, with all the medical bills. I guess I estimated high. Not sure where I went wrong, but works out since so many other things have gone the other way this year.
I still think I can scrounge together $3k for our ROTHs. This takes care of half.
As far as next year, lord knows, huh? I met dh for lunch today and we griped about Congress and politics. The tax delay affects me so much, I am just really grumpy about it. "Wah wah, you drug your feet on this stuff ALL YEAR and this might affect your Christmas????" Don't get me started!
Anyway, I suppose maybe I kept the large refund knowing the making work pay credit expired this year. (I don't remember, but makes sense). If the other tax rates stay the same, I would be break even for 2011, except we will probably have more medical bills. But, again, I won't mess with my withholding for such a one-time thing. So, I think I will keep it the same for 2011. (Also, I read that state tax rates were going down, but I assume that has got to be really temporary - so again - will just keep paying in the same rates). Hedging for higher taxes in the near future, I suppose.
I've mostly ignored my retirement this year since I haven't contributed much.
I probably am due for a rebalance. International seems to be really down for the year.
I finally got my retirement funds in hand (boss terminated plan). Only real difference is I have full control over it (versus none, before). I need to determine how I will invest these new funds, and how I will change my other allocations, accordingly.
I am thinking of shifting dh's retirement 100% into Target retirement funds. (Right now he has a 3-fund "lazy portfolio."). Done this way since he knows nothing about investing.
Though honestly, my best fund of late is my T Rowe retirement (has performed much better than Vanguards, in the short term anyway).
I may shift my stuff into the "lazy portfolio." In my ROTHs I have more managed funds and other stuff to consider in the rebalance.
All I know is I have to look at the big picture and rebalance everything.
I received enough money I can buy admiral shares to keep costs down. I am excited about that.
On the flip side, I won't add much to it because it is a regular IRA. We are in the bottom tax brackets, which doesn't make regular IRA contributions appealing for the moment.
I had a feeling dh would come out ahead with poker. We seem to have been on a good "small amounts of extra income" streak the last week or two.
Had fun with his friends, and is up $36. (I think the most they gambled was $20 - so started with $20 and walked away with $56. They aren't BIG gamblers! They actually started with $10 but dh lost early on and tried again).
Wrapped the Christmas gifts we had when we got home today. (Weekend visiting with friends and family 100 miles away). I remembered that the kids owe me some money for gifts.
Found some interesting TV shows (not new) this week.
For the macabre/disturbing, there is Breaking Bad. I can't put my finger on what I liked about it, but the acting was superb. Anyway, it was on the AMC channel - I have heard raving reviews about some of their other dramas, as well.
We had "Weeds" on NetFlix and though it was a somewhat similar concept (all about unexpected people getting into the drug business, due to money problems). I thought Weed really sucked, and Breaking Bad pulls it off well. I just could not get into that Weed show. Admittedly, Breaking Bad is not a feel good show, and it is a bit of a stretch. There is just something more enticing about it.
On NetFlix, dh shared the British Comedy - "The IT Crowd." Absolutely hilarious.
I think both of those shows are in their 4th season, at current.
Before dh, I never was into much of any TV shows or movies. But, I must admit, there is something about watching a show that has your sides splitting, that is priceless. Over time, I have come to appreciate the medium. (Comedy would be my genre of choice).
Reminds me, dh is expecting a Roku box for Christmas. Our new/main TV actually has an internet connection, and hooks up to Netflix directly. I have really enjoyed it, but a lot of the programming is not for the kids' eyes.
The Roku would be for the TV upstairs. Dh seems open to dropping cable, on and off. So, not holding my breath. But, this would be a good step. I look forward to being able to watch Netflix "in the other room." I do most of my TV watching just before bed, anyway. So, can utilize Netflix much more with the Roku. I think dh wants to try out Hulu, too. (Has tried before, but not with the Roku. Tried a PC set up, last year?)
Why I am not holding my breath? Conversation with dh:
DH: "I think I have found cheaper alternatives for everything except Comedy Central."
ME: "Is Comedy Central really worth $1k per year?"
DH: "Yes, it just might be!"
I know not to get my hopes up!
**My last post was a tax/politics post if anyone cares or is interested. (If not - then you didn't miss anything).
**I looked in Quicken and had enough money to mail off the house insurance. Didn't want to forget! I think I Was being cautious since I noted to mail it 12/20. Phew. In danger of forgetting, otherwise.
Property taxes cleared the bank. Those are the big December doozies.
Actually, I was perplexed because home insurance said "pay less for higher deductible" but couldn't find any more info on that. I finally gave up and just paid it. The bill had gone down 16% from last year, so, eh.
I found the details after I wrote the check, but figured it was for the best. Can do that next year when rates will probably go up anyway. We had already raised our deductible to $2k. This was to raise it to $3k. The savings wasn't that much. But, for catastrophic insurance, I prefer higher deductibles. (All our insurance??? I suppose we have high deductibles on everything).
**The big Scholastic Warehouse sale is on. For anyone in Northern Cali who is interested in more info, just let me know. (Leave a comment).
Dh said he expected to earn $75 for us (& can spend $100 and get $25 off - so that is his plan).
I think $45 for each teacher. BM's teacher told us that he turned $80 into 300 BOOKS last year. Amazing, huh???
Dh volunteers for $10/hour in vouchers for payment.
**Both classroom parents are raising money for a group gift certificate. Kinder teacher asked for $20, so figured would just give $20/each. Very generous, with all the books too.
**Decided on $20 Amazon gift card for work gift exchange. Problem was, couldn't use my free GC to buy another GC. Should have known! Already made up my mind and got it anyway. Oh well!
That's about $130 cash/GCs for work, boss, gardener, and teachers. We spent about $100 already on Xmas (& that includes birthday since everyone in our fam has birthdays this month and next). I expect maybe another $100 with dh's family and January birthdays. Seems way less than usual, so I am probably forgetting something!
**For the weekend? Dh has a poker game with friends. Will probably get the kids together with their cousins. Might be my last RELAXING weekend in a long time.
Next weekend we are going to try for that Star Trek exhibit, again. Dh's aunt is visiting from the east coast, so will try. We were going to go a few weeks ago, but it is at a mostly outdoor museum. Nothing but rain rain rain. We could see the Star Trek exhibit, but can't see all the airplanes and such at the aerospace museum. We heard they had a really cool playground. Don't want to pay to get in (not expensive; not cheap) and have to miss half of it. The weather might not co-operate, but we are running out of time - the exhibit closes in January. So, crossing my fingers for decent weather next weekend.
I think this sums it up pretty good:
Why the Tax Compromise is a Mistake
My head is spinning at work.
It's hard to remember all the "one-time" absurd tax laws for the state to generate revenue. My boss about gave me a heart attack when he said NO SAFE HARBOR for Cali income tax this year. Turns out he was wrong. (I thought he knew something I didn't and freaked me out a bit - that is only true if your income tops $1 million).
I've got clients calling me about this health care credit (For small employers with low-wage employees, who provide health insurance). It's so convuluted, no one qualifies. But I have to stare at it a couple of hours to tell them they don't qualify.
I am reading about the IRS lack of guidance on carryover basis for Estates in 2010. No Estate Tax in 2010. Sounds great, right? No. No stepped-up basis for inherited assets. I just read that this form (to allocate basis) is due April 15th, for people who passed in 2010 with larger estates, though the IRS has not issued any guidance on a number of issues, and has not even provided the form.
It's December 10 and AMT is not patched though it has been promised to be (for 2010).
The government wants to pass a social security tax holiday that is too late to implement for January.
People all the time tell me that accountants must support all this crap because it means job security. I think the line from "job security" to "it's practically impossible to do my job" was crossed when Bush took office. But, it's just gotten worse since Obama took office. I actually contribute to my profession's political action committee because I know they support SIMPLIFYING all this mess. It's honestly the main reason I contribute.
California is a mess because they can't justify to match all the tax breaks at the Federal level. I have to give California that. Though it is a huge PITA for tax payers and tax professionals, at least they don't blindly play along with tax legislature they can't afford. For me, there are 3 tax systems. Fed, AMT, and California. That's 3 times the work compared to a decade ago (when AMT was more rare and California mostly conformed to Federal law).
2011 will be a fun year, indeed!
**I am proud of dh - he is on top of things! He closed his AmEx, since we got our free gifts.
Dh said that AmEx said, "You are closing it already? After only a couple of months?" Dh truthfully said, "It's been kind of a PITA - a lot of people don't take AmEx." They tried to argue otherwise, but our first full of month of the Fidelity AmEx, I can tell you at least 20% of the businesses we tried to pay, did not take it! Not any small businesses. Not any utilities. Etc., etc. Not the parking garage. Not the haircut place.
I suppose I will wait for my Target gift card (reward) and then close the Chase Freedom. Will be closed by year-end.
**One of the AmEx rewards was a $100 Amazon gift certificate.
For the work gift exchange I pulled a difficult name. Our office is 90% women, but I always get stuck buying for the men! No idea what to get. Decided to get a Amazon G.C. if I can. Will be free to me.
I also have not been able to find Pantene anti-dandruff shampoo any longer. I finally looked it up today - discontinued! To top it off, all they have is the shampoo/conditioner combo. A stylist recently suggested I not use the combos, to keep my hair less greasy. I hadn't thought of it and can't say I have noticed a big difference. (Actually, that was a year ago!) But I have noticed more dandruff cropping up since I have been using another shampoo in the interim.
Anyway, there are still some available, so I will stock up on a few bottles. Will probably last forever, and maybe by then they will bring back the anti-dandruff. I'll see if alternating it with other shampoo helps at all. It looks like there is other stuff out there, but I am partial to my Pantene!
**A charity is coming by for pick up on Friday. I have a few things (not a huge purge), but will be nice to get rid of the stuff I missed last time.
I got a notice that a Chase statement was ready to view.
I looked to make sure my final payment hit. It had.
I had 1700 of some sort of other rewards/points. I didn't expect I'd be able to redeem anything, but was able to redeem for a $10 Target gift card with just 1000 points.
I think my Fidelity is still looking much more lucrative! But I am happy I squeezed out one last reward - I really thought I wouldn't be able to redeem my small balance. I only spent $150 or so, last month. (Some of the points must have converted over from my old reward system, which was different).
I just redeemed a $250 check under the old system - last month - so wasn't going to sweat not using every last point.
The Target card was a nice surprise - will use it for groceries.
Dh got a $10 off gift card from Safeway today (spent more than $75?) and also earned a $1.50 off coupone (Safeway) - he isn't sure why. Something he bought...
We really don't shop Safeway much at all any more. It's gotten so expensive! Dh still gets gas there though.
At our main Grocery store (local/regional) we get 25 cent off per gallon gas every time we spend $100. So I fill up the van there (16 gallons at a time) and dh usually hits Safeway for 3 cents off a gallon.
My biopsy came back... Inconclusive!
But, we have narrowed down what type of tumor it is. (The type that is impossible to tell beningn from malignant - great! Impossible to tell from a needle biopsy, anyway).
In the grand scheme of things - it sounds okay. If it is a cancer, it is still a 95%+ cureable type.
It is potentially such a rare type of cancer that I don't get the impression that it is likely to be cancer anyway.
Doctor will remove half my thyroid (probably in January) and if the lab results come back cancer, it would take too long and would mean a second surgery. Which is always a possibility anyway, but is certain in this case that they can not do a quick lab test to determine malignancy during surgery. That is the impression I got, anyway.
I think dh and I learned this past year that we can remain calm in the face of medical uncertainty.
But, I think I Feel a little extra stoic about the whole thing, this time around.
I've had a few surgeries before, so the idea doesn't scare me. I Feel rather "eh" about it. (I haven't had surgery in about 15 years, so all the bad stuff has probably left my memory. But, I tolerate pain pretty well).
& having gone through dh's brain surgery just one year ago, this seems pretty easy peasy in comparison.
So, pretty much, I don't see what the big bugaboo is!
Now, sitting and waiting for the biopsy results to come back? Ugh. Has been hell. I don't look forward to going through that all over again with the surgery. That part I probably look least forward to. But getting the results and putting this all behind me does sound pretty good. So, bring on the surgery!
The surgeon I met in the first place is scheduling the surgery, but I am not 100% sure I will go with him. He's fine, but I just don't know anything about him. I met with him briefly, he told me he didn't expect I had a mass in my neck, and thought he had pretty much sent me on my way. So, basically I still have a million questions! I am glad things are rolling forward, but just hope I don't feel the need to switch surgeons. That can really delay everything.
He's been really good returning my calls and answering things for me. I just hope he doesn't tell me he's only done a few of these surgeries before. I'll be meeting with him whenever they can fit me in...
The first time I met the surgeon, I can't help but feel his assistant jinxed me. She gushed on and on how I was on no medications and how rare that is. I was like, "Really? I'm only 33." This didn't seem to sway her opinion that I was a rarity.
I share because dh and I were both the epitome of good health, but have become those statistics that I always share when I see people without health insurance. We'd be bankrupt about now, without insurance. Cancer, tumors, car accidents - all that stuff can happen to just about anyone.
**Just got news that the District intends to deny our request to expand our Charter to Grades 6-8.
I don't know if it matters because the district is on the verge of bankruptcy and will probably be taken over by the state. I don't know if we were trying to get this through before all that, or if it is possible we will have more luck with the state, anyway. At least we are solvent.
The main arguments I have heard is "we will take more money from the district" and that "we will cause teacher layoffs." Considering our classes are about half the size of the rest of the district, I don't quite understand how this means teacher job losses. Unless the laid off teachers are not high quality and we not want them. ???
Just, frustrated. IT is just one episode in a sea on a completely incompetent school district. Why they approved our first charter in the first place - lord knows. It's the only thing good they have done, in my opinion, the last 9 years.
Will see what comes next - I am sure this is just the first battle in the war.
That said, a friend of mine ended up getting her kids in another charter school in the city (no luck with the charters in our district - too hard to get in). It was just another reminder that there are plenty of fish in the sea!
**Anyway... In other news, dh and I have not spent much time together lately. Can't say I particularly noticed. We have spent at least 1/2 of the 2 months since our Hawaii trip sick it seems (one of us sick at all times - some nasty bugs going around).
We had a nice relaxing weekend at home, and I couldn't really remember the last time we went out. Today I just noticed it had been forever, so suggested we go out. Dh was very excited about this.
Our date was ruined by bad planning. BM had a friend coming over at around 2. So we rushed out around noon (fed LM first because he refused to the srop-in daycare lunch). Got to the drop-in place and it was closed. DOH! It's been so long we forgot. Opens at 1:00 Sundays, but didn't work with our time crunch.
We just took the kids with us to lunch. I got an entertainment book for my birthday - I think I forgot to mention that one. Decided to try a Greek restaurant downtown - had a coupon. At least LM was fed, and we'd save the babysitting money.
Got downtown and manyroads were closed due to a big race. We trekked on, but realized it was about 50 or 60 blocks down. We didn't bring our GPS - we just assumed it was closer to the freeway/downtown. It really wasn't downtown after all!
We finally gave up, turned around, and had a delightful lunch (though no coupons) at this Indian cafe we love. The place is usually empty (though the food is divine and on the more affordable side since it's more of a cafe). When we walked in, they had a new menu (mostly the same in the end) and had opened up the space and put more tables in. The place was actually kind of crowded. We thought maybe all this was a good sign - business may be good? We had a nice lunch with the kiddos.
After all that, told dh we just need to do a lunch date some time. We just got out of the habit for whatever reason - seems easiest way to get our date time - with both kids in school.
In other news, I found the gift receipt (so I thought) for those shirts. LookingForward gave me the tip that I could return the clothing no tags (Kohls). I had looked up their policy and that is not what it said! But, I googled around and found that was mostly true.
Dh was skeptical - said he read stores were cracking down this season. I told him if it didn't work, I'd try another location later.
Anyway, I took it in and the gift receipt was the wrong one. (Doh!) But, she told me she could give me $45 store credit for both shirts. Holy Moly! Didn't expect that, with everything on deep sale, etc. I had just picked up the same shirt (another color) for $13 on Friday! But they credited me $21 or so per shirt.
That was 3 Kohls visits this week! I intend to not go back until after the holidays. The place was crowded as heck today.
Right now I just plan to buy some pants in January or so. I have lost a bit of weight. Waiting is probably best, because with my thyroid issues, I could lose or gain a ton of weight post surgery until my hormones even out. After having LM, I gained about 15 pounds in the matter of a couple of weeks. just, whacked out hormones. I lost the baby weight fine, and then everything went wacky. I had to stop breastfeeding just to feel normal again (weight gain was just one nasty side affect of many!) I don't look forward to going through something like that again. But, it is what it is! As long as wacky hormones are only temporary...
I know, I know - the year is not over yet! But all the bills are paid, and my head is in 2011. (Most any expenses left for now through 31st should be charged and paid in January).
Anyway, first, dh already sold the game system he bought yesterday. He bought it for $50 (a GameCube plus about 15 games). He ended up selling the GameCube in a couple of hours, for $20 (with the crappy games). He posted 11 games on Amazon, and already sold 7 of them. His profit on the games is $100 so far.
So, $50 purchase, $120 in sales, means net of $70 with 4 games left to sell.
IT's been kind of slow lately, indeed, but deals like this aren't every day, either! Woohoo.
Anyway, estimating my December expenses, at face value we spent $4k more than last year.
BUT, it was kind of a crazy year. The increase is due to medical expenses and some major home maintenance we did.
My compensation was about $10k lower than last year. Most of it was the economy, but I also lost out on a lot of overtime with dh's surgery. (This year will only be worse since I will be the one having surgery during busy season at work. Joy!)
The only other thing of note was that we seemed to do better on extra income this year than last year. About $300 more income??? Interesting since ebay sales have been rather slow since summer. We seemed to do a ton more focus groups this year. Our focus groups and ebay type sales netted about $1700 for the year, thus far.
Our auto expenses were the same as last year. (Well, except I didn't have to spend $2200 to replace a side door this year!) Everything else was about the same.
Childcare/Preschool - with LM in public school we saved $500 this year. Should be more substantial next year!
Clothing - we spent about half as much as last year. Lord knows how or why.
Dining out - we spent almost $1k less this year. Again, lord knows how. We don't eat out that much to begin with...
Way less on extra-curricular this year. WE actually signed up BM For 2 activities that were canceled (one them, one us). He quit karate this year, and soccer was only $100 (about all we spent for the year).
We spent a little more on gifts (like $100?) but we also bought both our parents used Wiis. So, I think we got some good bang for our buck.
Groceries - we spent less than last year. Averaged about $450/month for groceries and any household misc. items, pet food/litter, etc. This number seems to go down every year. I think we are just always constantly improving. But I have noticed this year in particular we have been spending less on groceries. We may come out $600 ahead this year over last year.
Home maintenance - spent $2k to paint our house - a chunk of change there.
Medical - spent about $5k more than prior year, with dh's surgery and all.
Misc - spent $1k over last year. That would be dh's T.V.
Property taxes - $300 lower than last year.
Utilities are up about $500 with our super high speed internet and TV upgrades. Of course, all the utilities seemed to increase their rates as well (our usage is rather consistent for water, gas, electricity).
Vacation - spent another $250 about, this year. Not bad at all. Last year we staycationed, plus a couple of weekends alone around the state. This year we went to Colorado and Hawaii, but didn't have to pay too much for the trips. Most of the $1900 vacation money we spent was to visit my Grandma in Colorado. It was a last minute declining health kind of thing. Vacation wasn't much on our spending horizon considering the type of year it was.
Vet care - this was a new category since my cat has been pretty low maintenance for the last decade. About 12 years old, we spent $1k on her this year. We paid $300 to find out nothing was wrong with her (she was drinking a lot more than usual) and about $700 for her urinary infection (emergency, etc.). BTW, she has been totally fine since.
Everything else was pretty consistent with last year.
I wish I could say next year would be way better, but 2011 looks to shape up a lot like 2010. Deja vu as I face going under the knife in a few weeks myself. I am still waiting to hear back from my biopsy (doctor assumes it might be inconclusive or set out for a second opinion, which doesn't sound too great), but he put me on the surgery queue on Friday since it was taking so long. I should get a surgery date soon - he wants me to have it in January unless it comes back malignant - then it would be like next week!!! I just feel in total limbo in the meantime. Since work is so much more quiet May - November, lord knows why this stuff always has to happen this time of year!
That said, dh's surgery in January went far better than expected, so I am not too stressed about it. I am just realistic that I may not be able to earn any overtime this year, as I recover.
Anyway, looking at the numbers, I do think I can get about $7500 in our ROTHS. $500 credit card rewards will go to my ROTH. I can put 10% of my overtime (which may not amount to much this year). So, I am thinking the focus group/ebay income can help us max out. That said, we may find we need it for medical bills next year. But hopefully the medical bills will calm down after 2011. Any overtime I can earn is going to medical bills - why I only guess I could put 10% to retirement. (Dh is still in limbo himself since the cyber knife procedure has not been ruled out. & it sounds pretty expensive - so who knows. We have insurance, but between that and my surgery we may need to come up with $6k out-of-pocket this year - that is our max. From what I have heard about it, it's not a cheap machine or procedure!).
**I think this year has been kind of slow on the Ebay/Amazon/Craisglsit front. Last year was REALLY slow in the summer months, but picked up quite a bit in the fall.
Anyway, dh just bought a system for $50 (Game cubes are his cash cows) and believes he can sell it for $150. The profit is in all the games - is selling them mostly on Amazon any more. We are boycotting paypal for the most part (so no more ebay). But, amazon has been pretty similar. I suppose the only noticeable difference is that they pay us twice a month, as opposed to getting instant payments from paypal.
For this year, momentum never picked up since summer. Usually dh can pick up a deal like this at least once a month, but it's been many months! Selling is good in the month of December - people paying more for everything.
Dh is putting up the Xmas tree as we speak. IT's a nice plastic one that we picked up about a decade ago on discount (after christmas - of course!). Has served us well!
Today dh was out and so I Asked him to pick me up some salmon. I was going to do crock pot salmon (sweet and spicy) last weekend and never got around to it. With some lemon rice pilaf. Yum! I even got the kids to eat it last time (didn't like it the first time they tried?). So, I don't have to eat it ALL myself. Dh does not like fish at all.
I was relieved to see the gas bill for November. November started out looking like an easy record breaking "no heat" month. But, the last 10 days of the month, or so, were bone chilling winter. I mean, it was literally colder than our coldest winter days usually are.
So, we have been running the heat pretty heavily the last couple of weeks. The heat bill wasn't bad at all - I guess the cold came on late enough.
I have no idea what to expect next. It's been like 10 months or so of spring here, up until being slammed into winter. I rather liked the long "spring,", but the cold has been hard to get used to in comparison.
**Did some fiscal chores. Paid ALL the credit cards, though most had not closed yet, etc. well, still waiting for first statements from Target and Amex so I know where to send the payments.
Paid dh's Chase - it was $15 - he didn't remember what - didn't get a bill. Oh well - just paid it. Made sure he is carrying CU Visa from now on. Will be $30 charges next month - at least I know what that was for. (To clarify - got bill balance from online bill pay at my CU - so I can pay it - just didn't get any details because I can't find the login to see the detailed bill).
Paid CU Visa which had all the "we don't take AmEx" charges.
Paid old Chase - had some straggling charges, but I think we can now put it to bed.
I never want to pay that many bills in one month, again! (We are in credit card transition stage - both Chases should be gone going forward. But, the separate Target card and the Visa are still a must).
**The AmEx did close, so today I will experiment with importing the data. The snafu is they only allow quicken imports for statements. I am used to being able to download data whenever. So, I have just been manually putting in groceries/gas to get a running total, and things I know I will forget how to categorize later. What a month too - with all the Christmas stuff. Usually it should be a lot easier (a lot less charges). Hopefully, downloading will at least go smoothly. Crossing my fingers. IF nothing else, I Can just delete any duplicate entries. (IT should be smart enough to match anything I already entered).
*I zapped my deposits online (scanner) and so have to remember to mail off the property taxes - they are due Friday. Was just waiting for my paycheck.
*We have been writing down every misc. purchase, and it seems to help. Well, I have to work with dh a little more. But, it was a relatively spendy month, and I did a better job than usual of keeping withing our spending confines.
Our usual MO is to go a bit over the last week of the month. Those last couple of days before the credit card closes.
I don't know why I never thought to just write it down before.
As I looked at the credit card this week, it seemed to be about as usual. All our careful planning had gone to hell. But when we returned the plates, I realized that I had been looking at an extra $200 charge that we don't have to pay. Duh.
In the end, we were dead on with the budget. Which happens, never. I feel relieved that we can be very aggressive with retirement next year. We will have less room for error, but I think I found a way to be a little more accurate and efficient.
As always, it's not the fact that you use credit cards that you tend to spend more. It's only if you don't pay them any attention. I'd say we treat our credit like cash, and this little tweak of paying closer attention than usual is all we needed to equivalate a cash system (in my opinion).
**Yesterday I was rewarded for bad behavior!
MIL/Grandma bought me some XL clothing for my birthday. They accosted me on Thanksgiving and said, "Tell us if you don't like it." When I said, "XL???" clearly I didn't like it! "That's all they had - just try it on." (Mind you - they usually do great with clothes shopping for me - similar tastes).
I tried it on over my clothes and it looked like a tent. They gushed over it and someone removed the tags. Oy!
"I think it's a little big."
"No - it looks great!!!" snip snip
When we went for the dishes return yesterday I went to look at the shirts. They had given me a shirt like I already had plus a faux suede button up shirt to go over it. I already have one of the same style which I like and has held up for many years. When I looked, I fell in love with a red one. I didn't think they had removed the rags from the outer shirt, so decided to exchange. I Was excited about that.
I was bummed when I got home to find all the tags had been removed.
I knew we had spent our "cash" for the month, but on the way home yesterday I stopped by Kohls. I had already had my heart set on that red shirt! I went in and it was on sale. I grabbed a dark blue one too. I knew they were high quality shirts that would last a while.
I tried on a BEAUTIFUL dress which just didn't fit well (phew!) On the way out I grabbed a BEAUTIFUL shirt that was on sale for $12.99. I figured it probably wouldn't fit well and I would return it anyway.
I was rewarded for bad behavior because the register clerk had to make me wait a few seconds while she got change. She was very worried about this, and so gave me $10 off for "making me wait so long." (Yeah, a whole minute?) In the end I paid about $30 for 3 beautiful pieces. The shirt fit perfect in the end. I can't complain. I will just add it to the birthday bounty. I made a good haul.
The credit card closed and it didn't show up on the bill. I told dh I was just testing the card. Sometimes charges late on the 3rd squeak by and I can wait a month to pay them. Phew!
Considering all the clothing I know MIL already bought me for Christmas, I have like a whole new wardrobe. Which is good because I have to cut my spending next year!
Got our new kindle and $100 Amazon GC for opening another AmEx a few months back.
The kindle is pretty cool - I must admit. Talks of selling it or gifting it? In the end, will probably keep it. we are that impressed already.
GC was bad timing - we just did a fair amount of shopping on amazon (christmas and all). Figures! Will use it later.
Now that we got our gifts, dh is closing that card.
Today the birthday bounty continued.
*$100 check from my mom
*keychain monkey that sings happy birthday, from sis
*hilarious card from SIL.
Today was a good haul for day after birthday.
The cash? Will put it towards my new dishes. That means they cost me a whopping $75-ish in the end. Woohoo! (Actually, the original ones arrived yesterday and so we will take them back tonight. Dh ended up getting them in store, cheaper. If we take them back tonight, refund might hit credit card before it closes - which will make life easier. Just in the nick of time!).
Lots of interesting articles today:
How Charities Get You to Give
How Many of the Rich Actually Work for a Living?.
IRS Assumes AMT Will be Patched
(Not the most exciting article, but basically, the IRS says to Congress - "Can you finalize the 2010 tax laws please, so we can enforce it???" AMT is just the tip of the iceberg of uncertainty.)
Weighing a Custodial Account for Your Kid
I've had a toilet jinx this week!
When I flushed the toilet at work, I felt the little chain "give."
It was funny because we already had a broken toilet at home!
Dh noticed that the toilet was leaking (thank goodness!). There was stuff sitting around the toilet and it was hard to notice, otherwise.
As I cleaned it up and looked around, I could see it looked like the wall behind the toilet was stained with water. I realized it leaked when it flushed. I am not engineering-minded AT ALL and so I assumed it was a leak in the water line. After toying with it a bit, and even googling fixes, dh was smart enough to look in the tank. It was actually kind of spouting out of the top (& dripping down). The gasket in the bottom of the tank looked kind of tired. The water line on the other hand, was just fine!
Dh told me he would run to Home Depot and see if he thought he could fix it. Initially, stuff like this has scared him off. But over time, he has realized these kind of things are pretty easy to fix. (As for me - I don't think I could fix these things if I tried. It's just not in my DNA in any way shape or form).
Concerned with potential for water damage, and knowing dh doesn't move very fast with this stuff, I told him it was up to him. If he called a plumber, I wouldn't blame him. We've just been flushing it once a day with a towel to catch the water. (My bladder is very small and I awake often at night - wasn't in the mood to trek down the hall in the middle of the night, which would wake me up).
Well, today is my birthday, and dh decided to fix the toilet. Said it was easy peasy. The cost? $8 for parts.
Can't think of a better present?
I asked dh to consider replacing the parts in the other upstairs toilet. We rarely go in there, and I don't want to find the same water mess in there - if the kids aren't going to notice. The one downstairs, we use enough, so will wait until that one self destructs too.
Lesson learned - don't keep stuff sitting around the toilet!
No cash this year. (Surprised since dh's family tends to be heavy on cash).
2 sweaters that I had picked out (from Grandma)
Entertainment Book - (We don't use nearly enough, but when MIL asked, I decided what the heck. Will get some use).
The kids got me some puzzle books
Dh fixed the toilet
The fam is making me sloppy joes for dinner. But dh had gotten groceries for 3 or 4 of my favorite recipes. I will dine well this week!
Last but not least - Marie Callendar pie - Lemon Cream Cheese
I have tried to instill much better eating habits in my kids (the ones I was raised with would make you cringe), but I think celebrations will always equal food. Maybe that is somewhat universal as dh doesn't seem to protest. He was raised with exceptional eating habits, but pigging out for any celebration is just kind of given.
I treated myself to lunch, and some soda and chocolate, since I couldn't have justified the expense otherwise. Decided it was a small splurge and I was worthy. I have cut my soda consumption lately - lord knows why. Really - no idea why i have had any motivation to. I just no longer keep it in the house (a habit I started since having kids - sleepless nights and caffeine needs, I suppose). I haven't seen anything compelling enough to make me want to quit. But, "quit" is a liberal word - I still drink soda when out, etc. Today I just wanted a big cold soda! I've probably gone back and forth in that it is much cheaper to keep soda at home (buy in bulk), but in the end, I rather just buy it once in a while (even if it costs several times more to drink it less). Maybe subconsciously it has to do with my health issues. I haven't been compelled by any studies, etc., because even when I keep it in the house, I just don't drink that much? But realistically i know less soda is probably better.
My mom told me my present was in the mail. Lord knows - could be anything. I'd guess maybe a check, or else she would just wait until she saw me (wouldn't ship anything probably). But, will see!
I know most of our friends and acquaintances spend a fortune on their vehicles. That said, I thought I was exaggerating a wee bit when I said everyone we know buys 2 new cars every 5 years.
So, we were having lunch with those friends I mentioned - who are in a big financial mess - though the upside down house seems to be the most of it (or the most they have talked about).
So, the wife mentions how the are going to need a new car. She kind of whimpered how it sucked that the car needed replacing. To which her husband replied, "well, yeah, it's OLD! IT's 6 years old!"
Of course, I kind of choked on my food at that moment.
They recently paid $30k+ for some Honda minivan that quite a few people have told me "was worth the money because it is so reliable." To which I do have to roll my eyes! I am not paying a $20k premium on my vehicle to "ensure it never breaks down." I know they think I am the crazy/cheap one. But, I think they are crazier! (These are mostly people deep in debt and on the verge of foreclosure. If you can actually afford said car, whatever. But I don't know anyone in a demographic that they can afford such a car. Anyone that I do is too careful with their money to spend that much on a car!)
Anyway, we aim to keep our cars to 20 years of age, and most of them were bought well over 6 years old. So, we obviously are coming from a whole different angle. My minivan is currently 6 years old, and it's still probably the *newest vehicle I have ever had.* This is why I choked to think of it as some old piece of trash.
They did mention they had heard that prior rentals were a good deal. We told them both our cars were prior rentals, and we do think those are the best deals out there. You hear mixed reviews, but we haven't had any problems. I think it just depends on the type of vehicle. I could see avoiding some sort of sports car that people would tend to be crazy with. But our cars are pretty boring!